A History of the Birth Control Movement in America

A History of the Birth Control Movement in America

A History of the Birth Control Movement in America

A History of the Birth Control Movement in America


A History of the Birth Control Movement in America tells the extraordinary story of a group of reformers dedicated to making contraception legal, accessible, and acceptable. The engrossing tale details how Margaret Sanger's campaign beginning in 1914 to challenge anti-obscenity laws criminalizing the distribution of contraceptive information grew into one of the most far-reaching social reform movements in American history.

The book opens with a discussion of the history of birth control methods and the criminalization of contraception and abortion in the 19th century. Its core, however, is an exciting narrative of the campaign in the 20th century, vividly recalling the arrests and indictments, banned publications, imprisonments, confiscations, clinic raids, mass meetings, and courtroom dramas that publicized the cause across the nation. Attention is paid to the movement's thorny alliances with medicine and eugenics and especially to its success in precipitating a profound shift in sexual attitudes that turned the use of contraception into an acceptable social and medical practice. Finally, the birth control movement is linked to court-won privacy protections and the present-day movement for reproductive rights.


The Praeger series Healing Society: Disease, Medicine, and History features individual volumes that explore the social impact of particular illnesses or medically related conditions or topics for a broad audience. The object is to publish books that offer reliable overviews of particular aspects of medical and social history while incorporating the most up-to-date scholarly interpretations. The books in the series are designed to engage readers and educate them about important but often neglected aspects of the social history of medicine. Disease and disability have significantly influenced the course of human history, and the books in this series will examine various aspects of that influence.

A History of the Birth Control Movement in America is not concerned with a disease or disability, but with another health-related topic, pregnancy and efforts to prevent it. The book provides an excellent example of how social, political and economic forces affect health issues. Peter Engelman has written an informative and fascinating account of the birth control movement in America, with emphasis on the period when the movement became established (between the First and Second World Wars).

The book in by no means a biography of Margaret Sanger, but as the primary force behind the early birth control movement, her work is central to the story. Sanger has been a hero to some and a villain to others, and Engelman provides an objective account of her contributions and her failings. In general, he has produced . . .

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